Bug Blog

Can The Wasp Nests Found Within Homes And Other Structures Continue To Grow Indefinitely?

You may have noticed that a wasp nest can continue to grow over the span of several seasons. Many people have stumbled upon a wasp nest that appears inactive and dried-up, but sometimes, the same wasp nest can be found one or two seasons later as not only still existing, but also much larger in size. In some cases, a wasp nests that is found to be inactive one year will become active again the next year and several years later. This seems to contradict the commonly shared claim that wasps abandon their nests permanently once the fall season arrives. During this time, the sole surviving colony member, the queen, will proceed to establish a new colony elsewhere. Once the queen produces enough worker offspring, these offspring begin to construct the new colony’s nest.  So how can a wasp nest become active again after being abandoned? As it happens, wasp queens sometimes establish colonies within existing nests that had been abandoned during a previous season. Or, in some cases, wasp workers will not die during the winter, which results in larger colonies, and therefore, larger nests in following years. This is why wasp nests can be as small as a softball or as large as a Volkswagen, or even much bigger. Some wasp nests that have been found within people’s homes and businesses have exceeded heights of 6 feet and widths of 8 feet.

The Vespula germanica species of wasp typically builds nests that are around the size of a 5 gallon bucket. In these moderately-sized nests, one queen will rule over a colony made up of around 15,000 individual wasp offspring. Once the season ends, these 15,000 wasps usually die, and the queen overwinters before flying away during the following spring to establish a new colony elsewhere. However, in locations where winters are warm enough to allow for the survival of mature wasp workers, such as in Florida, New Zealand and Africa, one single wasp nest can remain inhabited for several years. It is usually after one year of overwintering that a colony’s nest becomes strikingly large in size. For example, in New Zealand, a wasp nest the size of a car was found hanging from the branch of a tree located on a campsite. And a wasp nest measuring six feet by five feet was found within the attic of an English pub several years ago.

Have you ever found a wasp nest within your home or any structure that was as large as a five gallon bucket?